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Are you ready to be an AHP leader?




With allied health professionals playing an increasingly important role in our modern healthcare system, it's important that they benefit from effective leadership. So what makes a good AHP leader?

"Allied health professions, like all clinical professions, will be most effective in delivering and improving healthcare if there is sufficient strategic, professional, clinical and operational leadership to maximise their contribution to quality and productivity." That was a key conclusion in a recent review of current AHP leadership arrangements by NHS Improvement.

So, what are the skills and qualities that make a good AHP leader?

The report identifies three key attributes: a strategic appreciation of the wider health and social care system; an ability to work productively with high-level trust decision makers, mapping and demonstrating of factors that impact on service delivery; and an ability to engage with and represent the different professional identities and interests of the various allied health professionals, such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists and radiographers.

There are already many excellent AHP leaders working tirelessly to take their professions confidently into the future. However, despite allied health professionals forming the third largest NHS workforce, not all trusts have AHP representation either at board or senior management level. At a policy-making level, there's just one Chief Professional Officer for all 14 allied health professions (occupational therapist Suzanne Rastrick), supported by a relatively small team.

The NHS Leadership Academy has published a Healthcare Leadership Model to help all healthcare professionals become better leaders. The model comprises nine 'leadership dimensions', which you can explore at your own pace before using a self-assessment tool to assess your leadership behaviours and more fully understand your leadership development.

Leadership skills also play a key role in continuing professional development (CPD), which is a requirement of HCPC registration, mandatory for 13 of the 14 allied health professions. As well as taking a formal course in leadership, many of the other CPD activities provide useful guidance and experience to support leadership development. These include activities such as involvement in a professional body, lecturing or teaching, organising specialist groups, giving presentations and supervising research. All of these can help you gain wider knowledge and experience, as well as a strategic overview of the healthcare system.

In 2017 the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy launched a Leadership Development Programme and is now looking to get it accredited and rolled out to other allied health professionals.

"I think there's a lot of passion among senior AHPs for leadership, but we need to make sure we grasp opportunities and put ourselves out there," said Rachel McKeown, who last year became one of the country's first directors of AHPs. "In my experience, I had to move out of AHPs to broaden my experience, so it's not just about lobbying for more posts. We have to make sure we are continuing to learn."

If you’re interested in taking the next step onto the managerial ladder, why not take a look at our wide range of allied health job roles?
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